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Tīhei Mauri Ora: Negotiating primary school teachers' personal and professional identities as Māori

Colonial attitudes that positioned Māori language, knowledge and pedagogy as inferior and deficient continue to impact on 21st century primary school contexts in Aotearoa/New Zealand. They continue to impact particularly on the personal and professional identities and experiences of Māori teachers in contemporary English-medium schools. Just as, historically, Māori students were expected to leave their language and culture at the 19th century colonial school gates, so too are many contemporary Māori teachers in mainstream schools expected to set aside their language and culture and engage with the curriculum and pedagogy of the school where they work. Ironically, at the same time, these teachers are often expected to guide and assist their school to meet its requirements under Te Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty of Waitangi to ensure that its Māori students will succeed as Māori. This thesis sought to understand how a small cohort of experienced Māori teachers, positioned within 21st century English-medium primary schools, perceived and negotiated the challenges to their personal and professional identities as Māori, and as Māori teachers. The thesis employed a qualitative participant narrative methodology, framed with kaupapa Māori theory. The teachers participated in individual interviews and in a series of hui kōrero (focused conversations) that assisted them to reflect critically on sociohistorical and educational factors that influenced the formation and maintenance of their identities as Māori. The teachers’ narratives that emerged from individual and collaborative hui kōrero revealed that (1) being raised within urban environments and being themselves educated in monocultural schools during the 1960s and 1970s strongly impacted on how their Māori identities were shaped and, (2) their teaching experiences within English-medium primary schools and classrooms were culturally isolating and destructive, and largely unsupportive of the diverse realities that exists for some Māori teachers. I offer two key strategic responses to these findings. Firstly, I offer a self-identity continuum that seeks to respect and affirm Māori identity by taking into account the different levels and contexts of experience some Māori teachers may have with Māori cultural concepts and practices. Secondly, I assert the need for a culturally located and relational space within English-medium school contexts for Māori teachers to engage with, and draw on the support of other Māori teachers in order to affirm their varying personal and professional identities as Māori. Meeting this need is understood as a Tiriti o Waitangi/Treaty-honouring response, required of all schools.
Type of thesis
Gilgen, R. (2016). Tīhei Mauri Ora: Negotiating primary school teachers’ personal and professional identities as Māori (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10262
University of Waikato
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